It has been a year of heartache at Lincolnshire-Prairie View District 103, with two students and the 5-year-old daughter of a teacher fighting cancer, and a third-grader left as the sole survivor of a traffic crash that killed her parents and brother.
Volunteers have responded by organizing a blood drive and bone registry event Saturday as a show of support for all kids in need.
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"We just wanted to do something to show these families we care," said Pam Owens, a reading teacher at Half Day School who contacted LifeSource and BeTheMatch. "All the staff rallied around and wanted to help."
The marrow registry and blood drive will be from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Daniel Wright Jr. High School, 1370 N. Riverwoods Road, Lincolnshire. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are preferred by visiting the Donate Blood section at www.lifesource.org. Search for group code 577B.
"I have 30 volunteers coming and lots of staff members signed up to give blood," Owens said. "It's all about paying it forward and making sure there is blood for kids in need."
The intent also is to raise awareness of childhood cancers and the need to replenish blood supplies and register as potential bone marrow donors.
Appointments are not needed for marrow registration, but those interested must be between 18 and 44 and meet certain health guidelines.
The impetus for the effort includes Kyra Roach, an eighth-grader at Wright who was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer in July 2013. She has had 12 transfusions of red blood cells and platelets. A second student, whose family did not want to be identified, has leukemia.
Then, 5-year-old Ava Lee, daughter of Half Day fourth-grade teacher Esther Lee, has a rare type of leukemia that may require a bone-marrow transplant.
Kyra will end treatment in mid-May. The tumor in her left knee was removed and the cancer hasn't spread.
The family is "hopeful she can go back to being a normal 14-year-old," said her mother, Karyn. She hasn't been in school this year but will be at the event Saturday to watch family members get poked, Karyn Roach said.
"It's to explain to people why giving blood will help kids and trauma patients," she said of the event. "This is a way to honor these kids who are fighting hard."
Ava Lee was diagnosed in late February after being treated for a skin infection that wouldn't clear. She has had three hemoglobin and four platelet transfusions. And before that, she almost died more than once due to unrelated severe allergic reactions.
"She's certainly a fighter," said her mother, Esther.
Only 7 percent of those on the bone marrow registry are of Asian descent, and as Ava is of mixed heritage, the odds are even lower, Esther Lee said. She is working to raise awareness of the need for more bone marrow donors, particularly those of Asian descent.
"There's nothing more wonderful than to help people in need," she said.
The district also was stunned by a March 28 crash in Arizona that killed three members of the Hirayama family and injured Rinka Hirayama, a third-grader at Half Day School. She recently visited the school for a special goodbye as she gathered her belongings and asked classmates to sign her pink cast. Rinka will be staying with relatives in Japan.